By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Secure your keys.
That’s a ‘key’ message from Operation Bounce Back – a Casey-wide awareness campaign to drive down the annual toll of hundreds of stolen cars and thefts from vehicles.
The campaign’s simple tips are aimed to cut down opportunities for thieves, such as by not leaving keys on a side-table or hanging on a hook by the home door.
Other tips are to lock unattended vehicles at all times, keep valuables in cars out of sight, and lock cars securely in garages at night.
Ray Carroll, executive director of National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council, told a launch on 11 April that Victoria was in the grip of a major increase in vehicle crime.
Mr Carroll said people had become complacent after a long period of decline between 2001-’14.
However, in areas targeted by Bounce Back, vehicle crime had reduced by up to 40 per cent, he said.
The campaign sent a message not only to would-be victims, but also would-be thieves.
“The message about keys is extremely important to get out to the community.
“All cars are now fitted with very effective immobilisers … (the thieves) want the keys.”
Despite headlines about violent car-jackings and home invasions, most car thefts remained opportunistic crimes, he said.
Such as burglars finding car keys – maybe alongside a phone and wallet – on a table by the door.
“They’re in and out, and the car disappears from the driveway.”
The most common vehicle stolen was a 1990s Nissan Pulsar – well before the age of vehicle immobilisation, Mr Carroll said.
The launch was held at Berwick Motor Group, which has installed $300,000 of security measures such as monitored, motion-sensing cameras after its outlets had been targeted by brazen thieves.
Berwick Motor Group Executive Director Nick Strauss said there was two ways to look at the expense. It was either a cost to the bottom line or a cure of future pain.
He estimated the boosted security had cut vehicle crime at his stores by about 90 per cent.
He told of how thieves had driven through a showroom’s double-plate glass window to steal two vehicles in 2015. They stole a third car from the rear of the premises even while police were investigating on-site.
Casey deputy mayor Damien Rosario said almost 1000 cars were stolen in Casey in 2015-16, with Berwick, Narre Warren and Cranbourne the hardest hit.
“Unfortunately the City of Casey has one of the highest rates of motor vehicle theft in the state and it’s one of the largest crime types Victoria Police responds to in the municipality.
“Essentially the campaign focuses on spreading the word that car security begins at home.”
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill said most car-stealing home invaders were seeking car keys in plain sight because they didn’t want confrontation.
Most modern cars were stolen using the keys – found in stolen purses, handbags, homes or even left in car ignitions, Asst Comm Hill said.
About a third of the state’s 70,000 annual thefts from vehicles occurred without forced entry, suggesting doors had been left unlocked, he said.
In Victoria, about 22,000 cars are stolen annually.
“Secure your car, secure your keys – and these crimes can be avoided,” Asst Comm Hill said.
The three-month campaign will be promoted with information booths at major events and shopping centres and on the Casey Eye-Watch Facebook-page.
It is partnered by City of Casey, Victoria Police, National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council and Berwick Motor Group.